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Can Superman lie to Lois Lane and still be Superman?

August 19th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

Quick hit, because I have a question but no answer and I haven’t had one of these conversations in a while:

Superman is, as depicted in the comics, essentially perfect. He’s an upright, straightforward, and moral man. Like Captain America, the choices Superman makes are generally the ones that we would consider correct or moral. There are exceptions, obviously, but in general and in canon, Superman is the moral center of the DC universe.

The one thing about Superman, the franchise and character, I’ve never been able to figure out is his relationship with Lois Lane. There are a couple minor things that bug me—Superman is literally the Best Man Alive, so every story where Lois gets jealous because he’s hanging out with some other lady is silly at best—but the biggest one is the Superman/Lois Lane/Clark Kent triangle.

How does that love triangle not make Superman look really dishonest? Superman is Clark, Clark is Superman. They’re both reflections of the same core person, who is generally unfailingly honest and moral. But he lies to the woman we’re supposed to believe he loves. He actively lies, in fact, concocting schemes and routines that’ll maintain his identity at the expense of Lane’s career and personal life.

I know that this is partly the result of the friction that comes when stories for children are haphazardly turned into stories for adults, and the horrifying juxtapositions that situation tends to bring with it, but it’s also something that’s stuck around as the character has been continually rebooted into someone meant for adults, rather than children. That means that it’s a significant part of the character, something with deep roots and importance to basically every single portrayal of Superman.

But, knowing what I know and feeling what I feel about Superman, it seems like one trait that’s in extreme opposition to his usual portrayal. I can’t bridge the gap between Superman being The End-All Be-All Of Goodness and lying to Lois Lane.

So what’s the deal? How did you make this work situation for you?

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This Week in Panels: Week 197

June 30th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Getting closer and closer to the 200th week, it’s This Week in Panels! Got a lot of stuff for this entry, helped out by the likes of Gaijin Dan, Matlock, Was Taters, Space Jawa and Jody, so a big thank you to all of them. Unfortunately, nobody read Captain America this week of all weeks. Not that I expect Jody, since he’s of the Canadian persuasion.

This coming Saturday, I’m going to be performing improv at the UCB East theater in the East Village. So for anybody in New York with time and five bucks to spare, go check it out. Jokes will happen!

Age of Ultron #10AI
Mark Waid and Andre Lima Araujo

All-Star Western #21 (Matlock’s pick)
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat and Staz Johnson

All-Star Western #21 (Gavin’s pick)
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat and Staz Johnson

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This Week in Panels: Week 195

June 16th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to Scott Snyder in Panels, considering we’ve got six of those and four of them in a row to start. My peeps are Gaijin Dan, Jody, Was Taters, Space Jawa and Matlock. Matlock gives me a panel for Injustice: Gods Among Us that goes against my “no final page” clause, but it’s Injustice (meaning who cares?) and it’s a great panel.

I did make sure to enforce my “splash pages don’t equal panels” clause, which is a shame, as Venom features a page where Flash Thompson uses his symbiote on a car. Yes, there is a Venom-Mobile with teeth and a license plate that says “AGENT VENOM”. It’s beautiful.

To think that in the last couple years, Marvel’s been able to take all of worst parts of Spider-lore and make them work. Kaine, the Other, Carnage and now the idea of a spider-based car. Maybe soon we’ll see Lady Ock do something impressive.

American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell
Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque

Batman #21 (Jody’s pick)
Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV and Rafael Albuquerque

Batman #21 (Taters’ pick)
Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV and Rafael Albuquerque

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: DLC Appendix 4

June 13th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

While E3 is mostly remembered for the shellacking Sony is giving to Microsoft (oh my God!), they’ve also shown off the fourth DLC character for Injustice: Gods Among Us. Then Conan O’Brien got to feature the reveal on his show, making it official. This will be the last character for the season pass, but there are strong hints that we’ll be getting more in the future. Martian Manhunter, definitely.

GENERAL ZOD

Alias: Dru-Zod
First Appearance: Adventure Comics #283 (1961)
Powers: You know all that crap Superman does? He does that.
Other media: Other than his obvious movie appearances, he’s sort-of-but-not-quite appeared in the cartoons, Smallville and was in both a novel the Last Days of Krypton and a choose-your-own adventure book I remember owning when I was 8

I can’t think of a comic character who owes more to an actor’s portrayal than General Zod. It’s not like all the other memorable villain portrayals like Lex Luthor, Bane and Joker. If it wasn’t for Terence Stamp, not a single person would give a damn about Zod except for writers who love tossing in obscure supervillains that only the hardcore have heard of before.

Zod appeared in the early days of the Silver Age where he looked like M. Bison dressed in green while forgetting to wear pants. He was charged with trying to take over Krypton with his army of Bizarro soldiers and got sentenced to 40 years in the Phantom Zone, the dimensional prison of no escape (except when someone escapes). Superboy found out about that and released Zod once his time was up. Zod tried to take over Earth a handful of times and constantly got tossed back into the Phantom Zone. Since he was a soldier, he had an edge over Superman and was one of the few Silver Age characters who was stronger than the Man of Steel.

Superman II came out in 1980 and led to more appearances by Zod. Nothing memorable to mention, really. The Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot kicked in and DC practically took Zod off the table. With continuity made simple, there were some ground rules to Post-Crisis DC. For one, Superman had to be the ONLY Kryptonian. He was the Last Son of Krypton. That was his thing! So of course, within two years of this change, writer John Byrne decided to introduce Zod and Supergirl. Luckily, he had an out. They were from an alternate universe! …Except DC mandated that there could be no more alternate universes. That was the problem that got them into having to write Crisis in the first place. Byrne instead claimed they were from a “pocket dimension”. How that makes it right, I have no idea.

In this “pocket dimension”, Zod’s basic storyline still happened, only he killed Superboy with the help of his lieutenants Quex-Ul (essentially Non) and Faora (essentially Ursa) and annihilated much of the planet. Superman was asked to help out and defeated the three via exposing them to gold kryptonite, which permanently removed their powers. Zod warned Superman that they’d get their powers back, find out where he lived and kill his planet. Superman decided he had a point and killed the three with green kryptonite just to be sure. Then he moped around for a while because of it. Also, Supergirl came back with him, but she was manmade, so it didn’t step on the “no Kryptonians” edict.

DC Comics tried so, so hard to make Zod relevant again over the years. After all, he was the villain from the last good Superman movie. They had to make him a big deal in the comics. They came up with certain weird ideas. Or should I say other weird ideas.

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Guide to the Injustice Roster: Explaining Comics to People Who Don’t Read Comics Part 5

April 10th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

SHAZAM

Alias: Captain Marvel, Billy Batson, Captain Thunder
First Appearance: Whiz Comics #2 (1940)
Powers: The wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. Able to summon lightning by saying, “Shazam”
Other Media: Old-timey film adaptations, had his own live-action show in the 70′s, an animated series, was on Legend of the Superheroes, guest-starred on Justice League, Batman: the Brave and the Bold and Young Justice.

I might as well get the name thing out of the way because I’m sure it’s confusing as hell for people out of the Shazam loop. The magical wizard is Shazam. The superhero is Captain Marvel, only sometimes they call him Shazam, like in current comics and this game. It’s for silly legal reasons that I’ll get to, but for the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to call him Captain Marvel throughout this thing.

It’s a little sad that your average Joe doesn’t know who Captain Marvel is because during the 40′s, he was THE top superhero. Published by Fawcett Comics, his adventures sold more than Superman and Batman. He was the first superhero to get his own movie (which featured him taking out a bunch of enemy soldiers with a gatling gun. Times were different back then). Elvis Presley based his on-stage wardrobe on Captain Marvel’s sidekick Captain Marvel Jr. Captain Marvel was the man.

Only he really wasn’t a man, but a young boy named Billy Batson. Chosen by the wizard Shazam for his purity, orphan news reporter Billy was bestowed the power of becoming Captain Marvel upon saying the word, “Shazam!” Powered by the gods, Captain Marvel fought the likes of Dr. Sivana, Mr. Mind and many others. What made the character work was that he was just a kid. It was pure power fantasy. The idea that you could become this great superhero no matter your age.

So what made him so much better than Superman in the nation’s mind? Well, to be brutally honest about early Superman comics, Captain Marvel was interesting. Superman was a novelty act. He was in God Mode, going through the motions, taking out criminals who were no threat to him. Watching him beat up wife-beaters or throw around mobsters was fun in its own way, but even the mad scientist characters didn’t work all that well. It was usually, “Haha! Let’s see what happens when I pour molten lava over Superman! Nothing? Well, shit. What if I send my giant robot forces? Torn apart with ease? Damn it.”

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The Higher They Fly, the Harder They Fall

March 20th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday, my badminton partner Chris Sims wrote a piece on the weekly comic tie-in Injustice: Gods Among Us, based on the upcoming game by Netherrealm Studios. For the most part, he and I disagree on it. I think it’s a fun series while he considers it one of the frontrunners for worst comic of 2013. The one thing we do agree on is the dire first three issues, though he certainly minds it a lot more.

The series tells the story of how Superman comes to take over the world in the name of the greater good, ultimately leading to a DC version of Civil War. Through the first three issues, we see the Joker devise a situation where after he shoots Jimmy Olsen in the head, he kidnaps Lois Lane and tricks Superman into killing her. He does this by dosing Superman with Scarecrow fear gas laced with kryptonite so that Superman thinks Lois is Doomsday and shoves her into orbit. And it turns out Lois is pregnant too. Then Joker blows up Metropolis. When in custody, Joker’s questioned by Batman and they argue over Superman’s integrity until the Man of Steel busts in and angrily puts his fist through Joker’s chest.

The whole “fridging of Lois” thing is what made me aware that the comic even existed, but I didn’t care to read it until seeing some panels from the fourth issue, where Green Arrow keeps Harley Quinn in custody himself so that Superman doesn’t execute her as well. Even Sims admits that that’s a well-written bit and has some positive things to say about the issues that follow. And yes, while I claim the series is worth checking out, I mainly mean AFTER the Joker plot.

That said, the discussion on the matter made me realize a state of comics that nobody really touches on. As unfun as Superman being tricked into killing his wife and unborn child is, I’m not all that offended by it because “fridging” or not, it’s a step that the writer kind of had to make based on years upon years of righteousness. It’s a fucked up thing, but it’s the double-edged sword that comes from the purity of comic book heroes. It definitely could have been pulled off better in this story, but it’s a necessary trope.

It makes me think about something Grant Morrison’s talked about during his Batman run. Over the decades, the way the Joker has been written has evolved into something nasty, both in the character’s context and in the writing context. He went from being a goofball obsessed with “boner crimes” to a man who’s killed more people than polio. He went from flying around in a clown-faced helicopter to cutting his face off and having it reattached like a Halloween mask. The explanation is that by figuring out the Joker and his crimes, Batman puts a cage over him. Joker has to think bigger and more twisted to escape the cage and Batman puts a bigger cage around that. It escalates and the next thing you know, Joker’s chopping his face up.

Every now and then, a writer will play with a superhero’s refusal to kill and see where that goes. Sometimes it leads to a hero deciding at the last second, “No, I can’t do that.” Sometimes they’ll be totally ready to do it until getting interrupted and realize later that it’s probably for the better. Then there are times when they really go through with it. Whether it’s a good story or a bad story, I don’t envy the writer who has to set up that plot development because you’re forced to go over the line.

When I think of superheroes who strictly don’t kill, the four who pop into my head are Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Daredevil. Each and every one of them has had at least one story that shows just what it would take to make them kill. Most of the time it’s a non-canon story that can get away with it easily (ie. Injustice) while other times it’s a canon story meant to be part of the bigger picture of the serial storytelling.

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This Week in Panels: Week 179

February 24th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Hey, everybody! We got a huge update this week, thanks in part to Peter, the newest contributor. Also helped out by Gaijin Dan, Jody, Was Taters and Space Jawa. I don’t know Peter from Adam Warlock, so that goes to show that if you want to be the newer newest contributor, there’s nothing stopping you from climbing aboard the train.

To panels and beyond!

Action Comics #17 (Peter’s pick)
Grant Morrison, Brad Walker, Rags Morales, Sholly Fisch and Chris Sprouse

Action Comics #17 (Gavin’s pick)
Grant Morrison, Brad Walker, Rags Morales, Sholly Fisch and Chris Sprouse

Avengers #6
Jonathan Hickman and Adam Kubert

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This Week in Panels: Week 172

January 6th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

After a week of me being sick as a dog (second time this month after about three years of pure health!), I’m back with panels. With me are Gaijin Dan, Jody, Space Jawa and Was Taters. While I did read Invincible #99, the issue is unusable due to my “no splash pages” rule. The entire issue is splash pages.

I will say that despite all the problems with that series, I’m loving the subplot of the guy I’m too lazy to look up the name for an will instead call him Eye-Patch Gigolo Turncoat from Space. He’s like Invincible’s dad — a Viltrumite on Earth with the mission of impregnating human women for the sake of his race’s megalomania who is destined to turn on his people — only the difference is that he’s been told to impregnate multiple women… and he finds himself loving each and every one of them.

All-New X-Men #5
Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen

All-Star Western #15
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat and Phil Winslade

American Vampire #34
Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerue

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31 Things That Make Me Happy: Part 2

May 30th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

11) And Now Mark Briscoe with the Weather

I don’t watch nearly enough Ring of Honor as I should, but I am damn certain that one of the highlights of it is Jay and Mark Briscoe. The two are violent rednecks who are far more realistic than your usual over-the-top redneck wrestling character. Not only are they really good in the ring, but they could make a DVD of them just talking up their upcoming matches and I’d buy one for me and a handful for the holidays.

Recently, Mark got to do a local weather forecast while wearing his tag title belt. What makes this for me is how the background isn’t mic’d at all, but you can still just slightly hear the crew laughing their asses off. It’s infectious.

“…Lighteninging.”

12) Xavier and Magneto Take on Master Mold

The X-Men cartoon in the 90′s was pretty damn good and a lot of it holds up. Not to say it wasn’t completely maddening how strict they were about the roster’s status quo.

“Hey, Colossus/Nightcrawler/Archangel/Iceman. Now that we’ve beaten the bad guys, I wanted to offer you a spot on the X-Men.”

“That sounds great. Maybe one day, but not now. I’m going to just stand over there instead.”

“Oh. Okay.”

*roll credits*

Other than that and a couple other flaws (Storm’s voice actress, oh God), the show did a great job. Other than Apocalypse’s tendency to say the most chilling shit in the most ominous voice, my favorite thing on that show was the first season’s finale. Magneto gets decimated by an army of Sentinels and the X-Men give him medical care. They go off to save Senator Kelly and defeat the Sentinels, despite Magneto’s warning that they’re “brave fools”. He ultimately decides to man up (mutant up?) and help out. The final act is filled with a lot of strong character moments with Sentinels being torn apart and blown up all over the place.

When things look to be going mutantkind’s way, a mountain explodes and Master Mold – the lead robot that dwarfs its fellow Sentinels – stands up, swearing, “I CANNOT BE DESTROYED.”

All of the sudden, Xavier shows up in the Blackbird, with a cockpit filled with dozens of boxes of explosives and drums of oil. As he rants, you can quickly see a bandaged Magneto fly by unseen by Xavier.

“You are the living embodiment of all that is evil and unjust in humankind. You must be destroyed!”

Magneto bodysurfs on the top of the plane and turns on his force field just as Master Mold blasts in what would have been a direct hit. At the last second, Xavier presses the eject button and Master Mold goes up in one hell of an explosion. Sweet.

I always found it weird how despite being the X-Men’s #1 bad guy and leading the villain army in the intro, Magneto did shockingly little in the villainy department on that show. He fought them in the third episode (where Xavier defeated him by MAKING HIM RELIVE THE HOLOCAUST, which is extremely fucked for a kid show), but all his subsequent appearances had him fighting alongside the X-Men in some fashion. Granted, there was a lot of reluctance from both sides, but he was there.

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31 Things That Make Me Happy: Part 1

May 29th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Kind of a scattershot article this time around, so bear with me.

Things are overall pretty swell for me these days and I thought I’d take a couple days to sit back and talk about positivity. More specifically, as you can see in the big letters above, 31 things that make me happy. The kind of stuff that I can look at, think about or just plain talk about and I’ll turn my frown into a smile. This isn’t really a countdown, as there’s no actual order. In fact, it’s just a bunch of random crap meant to reach that number. The neat stuff I don’t talk about, I’ll save for next year when I discuss 32 things that make me happy.

Why 31? Because I’m becoming increasingly grizzled in the next couple days. I suggest other bloggers give this a try when their time comes. It’s fun.

1) That What If Story Where Galactus Turns into Elvis

I wrote about this last year, so you can read my lengthier review here. The short of it is that Galactus is magically transformed into Elvis Presley and shot to Earth, where he finds family and a new meaning to his life. More importantly, he redeems the names of Galactus and Elvis Presley by assuming the throne of King of Rock and Roll.

Yeah, comic books are sweet.

2) “Learn to Fly” by the Foo Fighters

I can’t say that I have a favorite song, but I’m sure “Learn to Fly” is in my top five. It’s a beautiful tune that gets me pepped up to do whatever it is I’m preparing myself to do. For me, this is one of those songs that you listen to a million times, only listen to half of the words and get this image in your mind of what the song is really about, which is completely off-base. I can’t be the only one who does that.

For me, I always imagined the song as being about a World War I pilot in a nasty dogfight whose side is getting cut down by the enemy. He’s trying to get out of there with a handful of enemy fighters on his tail. He prays that his luck and worth as a pilot will let him live one more day to the point that he even considers selling his soul to the Devil. In the end, he maneuvers his way to safety to the point that he thinks his survival was caused purely by divine intervention.

Apparently the real meaning of the song is that it’s Grohl explaining the mental desperation of trying to write a good song under pressure. That’s pretty cool too, I guess.

3) Whenever Somebody Awesome Beats Up Superman When They Really Shouldn’t

When you ask the average man on the street who the strongest superhero character is, they’ll say Superman. Sure, a comic geek could say that Superman is nothing compared to the might of the Spectre and you’re always going to have that one guy desperately jumping through hoops to come up with a scenario where Batman makes a fool out of the guy. At the end of the day, Superman is considered one of the most unbeatable dudes in comics.

So it’s always a blast when he loses a fight to someone who isn’t even in his weight class. Sure, there’s always an explanation, but it doesn’t change the fact that Superman got his ass kicked by someone like Evil Spider-Man.

Yep. Back in All-Access #1, Venom showed up in the DC Universe and was quick to getting in a couple fights with Superman. He absolutely thrashed him again and again. And this was written by Ron Marz, a DC guy! Even when Spider-Man showed up, Venom kicked both their asses until the lame-oid Access showed up with a giant sonic cannon to save the day.

Some fans will explain it away that this was after Final Night, meaning that Superman wasn’t fully cooked up by the sun’s rays and was at a disadvantage. Too bad. My guy beat up your guy, so ha!

There are other examples. In one of my all-time favorite comics, Superman boxes against Muhammad Ali on a planet with a red sun, so naturally, Ali beats him down. Even though Superman has no chance in his vulnerable form, he still proves himself a badass by taking a beating and not falling down until the bell rings.

There was a crossover from when DC had the rights to Masters of the Universe and Superman ends up in Eternia. Despite having been thwarted by He-Man at every turn for years, Skeletor is able to pretty easily take down Superman without breaking a sweat. He just slices him in the chest with his magic sword and then zaps him with it until he stops moving. The dude beat up Superman, saved Christmas one time AND has a skull for a head. He’s the best.

Slightly related, but that JLA/Avengers crossover had a scene where Superman and Captain America are at each other’s throats to the point that the other heroes are pulling them apart. I’ve always thought this scene was great in its own flawed way because, really, what is Captain America going to do? His powers are that he’s good at doing crunches and talking. Superman can turn a mountain into glass by looking at it. It’s one of those cool little moments where Captain America is so in over his head but doesn’t care because he’s so determined that you believe he has a chance.

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